Working together to tackle homelessness in Toowoomba is more important than ever before, according to the coordinators of the city’s Housing Hub.
Lifeline Darling Downs Chief Operating Officer and Housing Hub Community Connections Partner, Rodney Watton, says the Hub has seen a growing number of people in need of emergency support.
“More people are sleeping rough or couch-surfing in precarious arrangements. Support agencies are pretty taxed right now with many people needing assistance, so we’re capturing a significant group of people in need,” Rodney said.
“In terms of affordability and lack of supply, it’s the perfect storm. Even people with jobs are struggling to find rental accommodation, and we’re seeing the effects trickle down so the most vulnerable are being hardest hit.”
Launched in 2018, Toowoomba’s Housing Hub brings together the Department of Housing with a range of not-for-profit community partners, including Lifeline Darling Downs, YellowBridge Queensland, Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia, Richmond Fellowship Qld, Act for Kids and YouTurn.
A number of organisations and agencies including Uniting Care, Gambling Help, MyAge Care, NDIA, Carers Queeensland and Child Safety, also deliver their services from the Hub on a regular rotation.
The Housing Hub acts as a one-stop-shop for people at risk of homelessness.
“You’re here because you’re struggling with something to do with housing and our job is to listen in the first instance and then do our best to deliver a response,” Rodney said.
“It’s collaboratively operated and we’re partnering well for impact to make sure that people are referred to the right place and don’t have to go around and retell their story.
“The atmosphere of the Toowoomba Housing Hub is really welcoming and sometimes people just need to talk through their situation to reach some decisions themselves.”
Rodney credits the Hub’s success so far to the way non-profits, community organisations and the Queensland Government Toowoomba and South-West Housing Service Centre have worked together to tackle the same issues.
“It’s pretty unique – our argument is it’s about the place. We have a tight population base here in Toowoomba and the Department has supported us in coming together at a local level to support the community.”
COVID-19 highlighted the importance of working together to deliver integrated wraparound services.
“It was a crisis response and it worked,” Rodney said.
“Putting people in hotels meant that you could help them secure food support or other services. If someone’s sleeping rough and is under a lot of stress, it’s very hard to have meaningful conversations about how to solve the problem, but by having some certainty and a safe place and short-term stability, it actually managed to secure some people long-term accommodation.”
The Toowoomba Housing Hub and the Community Connection Partner are funded by the Queensland Government Department of Housing and Public Works. Lifeline Darling Downs is the Community Connections Partner (CCP) of the Housing Hub, responsible for coordinating service delivery and supporting the partnership between the contributing organisations.